Saturday, June 04, 2011 • 7:47 AM Comments ()

Hard Farewells

posted by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Some moments are bittersweet. There’s no way to make them fully sweet (or entirely bitter, either).

Short version: a couple of weeks ago a spot for Remy opened up at the school his seventh grade brother attends. Lucien’s had a great year—and the school’s slightly raggedy (even, as Lucien is fond of saying, “hippie”) warmth suits us well (less homework suits us all well, too). Our hunch is that Remy will thrive there in ways we can’t quite envision.

Here’s the other part of the short version: to say yes to the new school means to say goodbye to the old one.

That’s a rather giant goodbye.

Three years in, Remy has fabulous friends he relies upon in school, a sense of belonging and he has enjoyed a spectacular click to pretty much everything about second grade, including his most incredible and masterful teacher (and his skilled and twinkling-eyed gym teacher and his brilliant art teacher).

Three years in for him, ten years in for us as a family (more if you count preschool and the infant-toddler program, both formerly connected to the elementary school), this has been the institution we—our kids, two all the way through and us as parents—have grown up around. It’s integral to our family’s life.

To head away from a school we’ve all loved to a new place is hard. This week, the sadness of that decision reached its inevitable peak with school ending and the sixth graders graduating (such a warm, personal event, that graduation).

During the giant storm with that sky so yellow its angry color must have been a surprise even to itself, Remy sobbed and raged and we held him (and his feelings). We did not try to convince him to like our decision. We reminded him we loved him and hoped we were doing well by him and we reminded him that fortunately if we are wrong, we aren’t going far and can return to familiar ground. I felt shaken, like some branches just outside, right off the trees.


A parent’s job sometimes is to make a hard call and then hold the attendant feelings that naturally ensue.

My friends reminded me to keep breathing.

I let myself feel sad, too. As one of the administrators at the new school said when I called to set up a meeting, “You wouldn’t be sad if you didn’t appreciate the school deeply, as you’d want to feel about a school you’ve attended for so long.”

Remy didn’t want to go to the class picnic after the last school morning. He and his pal created a Rube Goldberg-esque contraption and then other friends showed up and off they rode on their bicycles and he stayed for a sleepover. Surely, he’s going to let me know many times over the coming months that he’s not happy about the impending change.

In any case, he’s a rising third grader, now.


The moment of leaving had passed and I went to get Lucien at ultimate Frisbee practice and another classmate’s mother arrived with icy cold water for all and I was reminded that we’re moving from one dear, sweet community to another.

That moment wasn’t a bit bittersweet.

In the car, Lucien asked me how I felt leaving the old school behind, as we headed for an after-Frisbee frozen yogurt. Telling him about my tugging sadness, oddly, wasn’t really bittersweet, either. I was so touched that he wondered and cared my sense of feeling tender and even bruised eased. I felt somehow that together, we’re all embarking upon new adventures. And I felt surprisingly happy.

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Hard Farewells
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